‘The Force Awakens’ Special Effects Reel is Amazing

Industrial Light & Magic, the movie magicians responsible for The Force Awakens special effects, released a video Tuesday detailing their efforts. The reel showcases just how much of the latest Star Wars film was digitally created. From the iconic Star Destroyer in the desert sand to the sinking TIE fighter piloted by Poe Dameron, ILM digitally rendered it all.

The Force Awakens gave us the opportunity to once again push the boundaries of what is possible in character animation and visual effects while combining cutting edge practical effects and physical sets,” ILM captioned the clip on YouTube.

While the reel is absolutely incredible, it’s not really a surprise from ILM. The company has been at the forefront of special effects since its inception in 1975. The initial crew of 75 college students, artists, and engineers created the effects for Star Wars: A New Hope. The crew used computers, matte paintings, and miniatures to create some of the first truly impressive space battles in movie history.

In 1979, Edwin Catmull joined the team at LucasFilm. His contributions on the digital side of things pushed the special effects even further than before. (Catmull founded Pixar in 1985, and is its president today.) Catmull and fellow ILM alumnus John Dykstra have both received Oscars for their work.

The ILM team has a history of documenting their incredible work. The video above shows off just how much they were able to do in a time when computer graphics were a new technology. While best known for their work on the Star Wars franchise, ILM has done special effects for a number of films and television shows. (370, by IMDB’s count, and that’s for ILM U.S. alone.) Among those in ILM’s vast library of work are the Back to the Future trilogy, the Jurassic Park films, even a number of Star Trek movies! (ILM actually worked on Return of the Jedi and The Wrath of Khan at the same time.)

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